Beta appreciation notes for my astounding team:
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NOTES: There’s a touch more slash in this, but nothing explicit.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended. I don't own
these characters. This story is not meant to violate the rights held
by New Line, Tolkien Enterprises, nor any other licensee, nor is any
Ere The Final March
Chapter II, Boromir’s Gift
"It was as if part of him died, my lord. When he had that vision, and felt that you were dead, the Faramir we knew died, too."
Damrod’s voice echoed within me. I opened my eyes, knowing I’d been dozing, my lieutenant’s words from a few days beforehand rising with me to consciousness.
The chamber was quiet and dim, the one burning lamp trimmed low. I lay half-propped up against the pillows piled at the headboard, Faramir sleeping soundly in my arms, his breathing quiet and slow, comforting to me in its regularity. I pulled the coverlet higher over his shoulder, thinking of when I had risen to leave hours earlier, after the little ones had finally drifted into sleep. I’d thought Faramir was sleeping, too, he had been so still. But when I had moved, he’d held on to me and looked up with a soft, anxious gaze.
"Please," he’d whispered. "Boromir, can you . . . can you stay?"
I’d instantly recalled Faramir as a child, padding time after time into my bedchamber at night, wide-eyed with fear from a nightmare, turning to me after I’d taken him into my bed and comforted him. "Please, Bor’mir, can I . . . can I stay?"
I felt that same twist in my heart I’d felt back then, his tone so similar, his sad-eyed gaze reaching deep inside me. As I had in the past, I gathered him closer and repeated the same words I had always used back then: "Aye, little urchin. Nestle in and go to sleep."
Faramir’s eyes widened and glistened with a sheen of tears. He’d buried his head against my chest and hugged himself closer to me, sniffing a little grin and repeating his remembered response: "I’m not ‘a urchin,’ big brother."
I’d also grinned, hugging him back, delighting in this shared memory, and I’d continued in the manner we always had with the little exchange we’d repeated from the time of Faramir’s childhood all the way through his youth: "Faramir, you’re ‘a urchin’ if I say so."
He had been sleeping for some time now. The moonlight spilled through the window at a different angle . . . aye, it looked as if he’d been resting comfortably for three, maybe four hours. I had dozed, too, off and on, waking at times to smile at the small snuffly sounds of sleeping hobbits and the steady rhythm of my brother’s inhaling and exhaling.
Aragorn and Legolas would have returned from the Ranger encampment by now. I wondered if Halbarad had decided that he and Gwinthorian would stay with the Grey Company rather than returning to the city. On our way back from Osgiliath this morning, Gwin had speculated that they might rejoin their Rangers that night. I had understood. I was at home in Minas Tirith, and they were at home with their Rangers.
Of course, clearly ‘home’ to Gwin meant anywhere Halbarad was. The elf had been unhappy about going with me to Osgiliath, as I had been unhappy about being ordered there by Aragorn instead of being allowed to stay close to Faramir. Our matching surly moods had bonded Gwin and I in congenial sulkiness.
Although the Rangers had been with us since we left Rohan, Gwin and I had not much occasion to get to know one another. My first head-on encounter with him had been when he’d overheard Legolas call me ‘little brother.’
Gwin had studied me with exquisite stillness, his fixed gaze making me squirm, and finally, he’d said, "’Little brother’? Legolas, has Thranduil been up to a bit of mischief with some mortal female in the last thirty-five years?"
I’d been appalled. "You insolent elf!"
But Legolas had merely sniffed, as if Gwin’s impudence was nothing to take note of, and said, "Gwinthorian, will you never grow up?"
"I hope not," he had replied, smiling beautifully. "Halbarad would become quickly bored."
If I’d had any question remaining in my mind about how things were between the pretty elfling and the commanding lieutenant whom even Aragorn looked up to, the pretty elfling had just cleared them up with a frankness that I found, once again, appalling.
"Do not look so shocked, little brother." Legolas grinned at my frown. "It will only encourage Gwin’s effrontery."
"I merely inquired as to the origin of your name for this warrior," Gwin had said.
"This warrior’s name is Boromir, Gwinthorian," Legolas said with quiet firmness. "I call him ‘little brother’ out of affection. He is beloved of me, dearest Gwin. Do you understand?"
"Aye." Gwin had smirked at me. "I understand that your partiality to mortals has expanded."
"That," Legolas had said, "is something to which I do not think you want to comment."
"Is that what you think, my prince?"
We had all flinched at the deep voice behind us and turned to see Halbarad standing there, his thick arms crossed over his chest and a deceptively serene look on his face.
Gwinthorian had squeaked, "Aye, Hal?"
"A word. Now."
Again, if I’d had any doubts about what these two shared, Gwin had managed to clear them all up.
Gwin and I had eventually formed a casual alliance, but this period in Osgiliath was the first time we had worked alone with each other. We had done quite well in the ruined city. Gwin was delightful and brilliant, cheeky, but intensely focused when considering a problem and altogether fascinating to be around. Like Legolas, he drew every eye as he passed, and also like my elvish big brother, he never noticed the stares. After a while it became amusing. I’d actually burst out laughing one time when two rugged warriors heading towards each other with hunks of broken masonry, their dazzled gazes locked on Gwin, promptly crashed into each other.
He really was quite something, this enigmatic elfling. On the surface he seemed easy to figure out – the charming eternal youth. I soon learned, however, that Gwinthorian was far more than he appeared to be.
But, as impressive as he had been in Osgiliath, his behavior this afternoon in the street when he and Legolas returned had been nothing short of churlish. He had blurted out what he’d overheard on purpose, of course, but all I’d focused on at the time was the inferred message, instantly realizing what Faramir had done. I had, admittedly, been a bit . . . agitated.
After being packed up to Aragorn’s chambers, where I was loudly agitated a bit longer, I calmed thanks to the wine Aragorn shoved at me, then became freshly agitated when he ordered me to hold off for a day before tanning my little brother’s deserving backside. I’d reluctantly scowled my agreement, and it was then that Gwinthorian’s sass resurfaced, the outrageous brat asking if he could come watch me spank my brother.
Now realizing that Gwin had baited me in the street, and with degrading success, I’d sat there, fuming, wondering if Halbarad would mind if I hurled his adorable elfling out the window. The little knave and I had been friendly associates in Osgiliath, and yet, this afternoon he had made me a target of his foul mood. I couldn’t help resenting that.
So it was satisfying to listen to the others playfully swiping at him with teasing words. I felt avenged. I felt defended. It had gone on and on, three warriors affectionately jabbing at a very deserving Gwinthorian. I’d enjoyed his squirming immensely. I’d even chuckled, amused by their skill. How delightful! Halbarad, Legolas and Aragorn verbally swatting an impertinent imp of an elf who had been asking for it.
And then it had hit me; Gwin had indeed been asking for it. He’d been begging for it. Aye, he’d used me, but he’d had a reason. Images of him over the past few days flashed through my mind. He had clearly missed Halbarad, painfully so. He’d tried to hide his misery with wit, but in quiet moments Gwin’s wide eyes became softly sad, and at night, when I would stir and find him missing from our fire, I’d glance around for him and see him sitting up on some high wall, still as a statue, gazing off at Minas Tirith. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I’d known that same sadness lingered in their blue depths.
Gwin’s behavior made sense now, his profound need for attention becoming suddenly glaringly obvious, even more so when the confusion over the servant’s message had been cleared up and a woebegone Gwinthorian had urged his Ranger to attend to the Took’s demand for his presence.
My heart went out to Gwin. I vow, any one of us looking at his forlorn little face would have gladly spanked him in that moment if Halbarad had not already been stalking across the room with a determined stride that made me inwardly cringe for the outwardly cringing elf who was the target in Halbarad’s sights.
I hadn’t meant to watch. I hadn’t watched at first. From the corner of my eye, I’d seen Halbarad glance our way when he started spanking Gwin, so I’d assumed an indifferent air that matched Legolas and Aragorn’s disinterest. But when Halbarad focused back on his task, I’d looked over to see if he really was rending Gwinthorian limb from limb as it sounded like he was, given Gwin’s screams, and once I looked, I could scarcely look away again. It was an enthralling sight . . . an enthralling and . . . pretty sight.
Halbarad was larger than Gwin, larger even than me, more brawny and muscular, his coloring much like Aragorn’s, his features handsome, his demeanor majestic, and stretched over Halbarad’s lap, held in place by his firm grip, lay this glorious, golden elf, his leggings yanked to his knees and his perfect bottom growing rosy as it was soundly spanked. In comparison to the powerful Ranger, Gwin looked delicate. He was, however, powerfully loud, kicking and squalling and making a ruckus worthy of Pippin. His bright mane glistened with every frantic toss of his head, the soft skin of his sublimely curvy bottom undulating under the repeated spanks from Halbarad’s paw-like hand.
I’d winced at the sight of that rapidly reddening backside. It had to hurt, although I sensed from Gwin’s immediate explosion of wailing that, like Pippin, one could not judge his level of distress by his performance. Halbarad seemed unconcerned. Indeed, he looked impassive and determined, his focus centered on his target. I sensed that he’d done this so often it was now instinctive. He snatched up Gwin’s hand when the elf tried to cover his behind, fastening it to the small of his back, and he tipped up his leg to paddle the tender underside of Gwin’s lovely cheeks, moves I knew all too well. I’d hoped I didn’t howl as wildly as Gwin did when my tender underside was spanked, though.
And Halbarad talked, his voice low and rich with a commanding tone that actually made my backside tingle. I’d glanced once at Aragorn. His eyes downcast, he wore his very faint smile, as though feeling in complete accord with Halbarad’s every word. Indeed, the lieutenant’s discourse reminded me of Legolas and Aragorn’s murmurings when they were spanking me, a heady mixture of stern authority and loving compassion.
And so I’d watched, mesmerized by the potent allure of this sight, the graceful arc of Halbarad’s arm, rising and falling again and again, and Gwin . . . Gwin looking distraught and resplendent. Even when sobbing and fussing, he was exquisite. It was almost too intimate to watch, and yet, I couldn’t tear my eyes away.
But when Halbarad stopped spanking Gwin and gathered him up, I did look away. I wrenched my gaze to Aragorn and found him watching me with a warm smile. He glanced up at Legolas, who was still sitting on the arm of my chair, and I felt a shift and heard an elvish whisper in my ear, "It is a spellbinding sight, is it not, little brother?" I’d nodded in reply.
A sudden sound at the door now drew my attention. Aragorn slipped into the room. I smiled, watching him move silently across the floor towards us. Of course he would come to check on his own; it had simply been a matter of when.
He returned my grin, then gazed affectionately at Merry and Pippin, or rather, the jumbled mound of intermingled hobbit bodies buried under their blankets.
"They still nest underneath a cover of blankets as they did on the march," he murmured.
"Aye." I cast them a loving gaze of my own. "Gimli trained them well. ‘Take yer privacies ‘neath yer blankets, you young rascals!’"
Aragorn chuckled and moved to sit on the end of Faramir’s bed. "Well, dwarves are not known to tolerate open affection. Even our small gentle giant had his limits."
"Mmmm." I nodded. "He tolerated much, though, our dwarf." I cast Aragorn a look of fond memory, which he returned.
"Aye, he did at that. And still does." He glanced down at Faramir. "And how is our little brother?"
I smiled. Not your little brother. Our little brother. How perfect that this man I loved so dearly looked upon my precious younger brother with such affection.
"Sleeping soundly at last. I think he was exhausted."
"Aye." Aragorn frowned. "The warden said that he slept while you were away, but it was often fitful. The healers are observant of their sleeping patients. I had hoped that he would rest better without his big brother hovering about." Aragorn paused and turned a wry glance my way. "I fear my strategy was flawed."
"Your intentions were good."
"Mmm. If ill-considered. You and Gwin learned much in Osgiliath, but it came at a high price. Without you as a battering ram, Pippin was denied access to his beloved Merry, and he ended up lonely and bored and frustrated. Likewise, Gwinthorian should not have been separated from Halbarad so soon after Pelennor. I had neglected to consider the effect that would have on him."
Glancing at Faramir, Aragorn continued: "And this little one." He shook his head and sighed. "I suppose he thought that if he ate but a little, the healers would send for you in Osgiliath."
"They should have."
"You know the warden. He felt that Faramir’s hunger would eventually solve the problem."
I felt a surge of anger.
"I know, Boromir. Calm yourself," Aragorn said. "The warden has ne’er had Faramir in his care like this before, and he did not understand his level of stubbornness. He made an error in judgement. I told him he should have alerted me sooner, and he admitted his blunder."
I kissed Faramir’s head, frowning over that idiot warden’s actions. I still planned to have words with the man myself.
"Let it go."
I glanced up, ready to protest both Aragorn’s insight and his order.
"Let it go, little fledgling, lest I have to paddle your insubordinate bottom as I did your brother’s."
"Let it go."
I knew that tone – gentle, but firm. There would be no talk with the idiot warden. I sighed. "Aye, meleth nin."
Aragorn smiled. "Aye, ‘my love.’ And you told Gwin you were not conversant in Sindarin."
"You know I am not," I replied. "I have neither the patience nor talent for languages, but I can retain what is important to me."
His smile softened. "And meleth nin is important to you, even though you use it for only me and our beloved elf."
"Aye, most important."
Aragorn moved up, careful to not disturb Faramir, and he kissed me tenderly, just enough to stir a warmth in my stomach.
"You will, I take it, be staying here tonight?" he murmured, his warm breath whispering over my lips until he drew back a bit to give me a quiet, heated look. "You will not be returning to your chambers?"
I sighed and reached up and ran my fingers through his hair, suddenly missing the feel of his solid, warm body intertangled with mine as we slept. "Faramir needs me here tonight."
I was comforted in the knowledge that Aragorn and Legolas would have found solace with each other during the past few nights, as indeed it should be. Theirs was an eternal bond, passing beyond all mortal and elvish precepts. I’d been reluctant to intrude upon that bond when they had sought a deeper intimacy with me. It was beyond my comprehension that what they both desired, and what I longed for as well, could work, and I feared risking the affection we already shared.
But Aragorn and Legolas never failed to show me that what I thought to be unattainable was, in fact, entirely within reason. With slow and patient love, they brought their enraptured younger partner into their embrace, and together we found a perfect balance. Though never choosing to all three share our passions simultaneously, we interchanged as our desire decreed, fulfilled in our time spent one with the other, and yet also contented when the other two were paired. And so, this intimate informality had sustained us, happenstance providing us opportunities to be alone wherever we found ourselves.
Those opportunities had been more infrequent of late, though, and as I studied my enticing Ranger’s seductive expression, I felt a physical tug and a hot wash of regret. I longed to be two places at once, here with my little brother safe in my arms, sleeping like a babe, and in my own chamber, being loved to distraction by my Ranger or my elf.
"Ahh, sweetling, do not look so melancholy," Aragorn now said. "Your little brother needs you, and that is all there is to be said. Do not fret about Legolas and me. We managed quite well for the past two nights when you were gone." He ended with a quirked grin I couldn’t help returning.
Impossible Ranger! How like him to tease me and make me smile through my obvious frustration. I knew my frequent lustful thoughts were amusingly obvious to both he and Legolas. They found it endearing that I simply could not seem to disguise my fervor. But my fierce needs often roared through me like wildfire, and at such times both Aragorn and Legolas looked so alluring that it made me lightheaded with desire.
I felt a warmth rising in my cheeks, remembering a brief exchange one night not long after Halbarad and the Grey Company had joined us. We sat in the firelight’s glow, Halbarad and Gwin, Garrick and Devon, Aragorn, Legolas and myself. Halbarad and Aragorn puffed their pipes, the rich, heavy scent hovering over our small group. Devon, who looked barely older than a boy, lay fast asleep, his head resting on his giant companion’s thigh, while Garrick was stretched out, eyes closed, his head braced against his saddle. Leaning upon Halbarad, Gwin softly sang a long elvish ballad that all, save I, understood. Aragorn sat with his back to a boulder, his eyes half-closed, studying the flames with dreamy unmindfulness, and Legolas sat beside him, his knees drawn up and slightly spread, his forearms braced upon them and his long fingers toying with the fletching of an arrow.
I couldn’t help watching my two exquisite warriors, marveling at the sight of them, thinking of what each in his own demanding manner was able to do to me, wring from me over and over, so focused in my burning thoughts that I flinched in surprise when Halbarad cleared his throat. I glanced at him and found him studying me, inscrutable as always, but his eyes positively glittering with amusement. Unfortunately, Gwin turned and noticed as well.
"Boromir," Gwin said, "given your lusty gaze, it will likely take both these vigorous warriors to satisfy your hunger this night. You proclaim your arousal openly. You would, perhaps, do well to school your features."
I had nearly melted into the ground. The thought of it still made me flush, but I had to grin, for Gwinthorian had been right.
"I know," Aragorn now murmured, clearly recognizing my longing. "You have not managed quite as well for the past few nights. I should not tease my poor fledgling so."
I smirked and muttered. "Impossible Ranger."
He grinned; then he glanced off and grew slowly somber. "It is just as well that you will be here tonight," he said. "Legolas needs some special attention."
I froze and studied him. Special attention. Of course.
"Ahh," I said. "Because we soon march again for war?"
"Aye." Aragorn still gazed off. "You know him well."
"I know he needs what he needs before a battle. And I know you always provide what we both need, meleth nin." I suddenly knit my brow and asked, "Is he waiting for you now?"
"Nay. He went to the Ranger encampment with us, but . . . ."
I waited. Finally, I said, "Aragorn?"
He sighed. "Legolas did not return with me. Sometime during the few hours we were at the camp, he slipped away. When the meeting was over, the men milled around, and I talked at length to Thayer and Farrell and the elders and many of the Company, so I lost track of Legolas. When I was ready to leave, he was nowhere to be found and his horse was gone."
"He simply left? With no word to anyone?"
"Aye. Halbarad decided that he and Gwin would stay at the camp tonight. If Legolas returns there, Halbarad said he would personally escort him back to the city."
I winced. "Legolas will not go back to the camp," I said, thinking it for the better he did not. Halbarad would not be above hauling Legolas from his horse and bestowing a few well-delivered swats to his truant backside. Having had the misfortune of enduring a few of Halbarad’s well-delivered swats once myself, I felt it better that Legolas bypass the Ranger camp on his way back. Gwinthorian was clearly made of tougher stuff than I was.
"Nay, he will come back to the city and go straight to my chambers," Aragorn said. "He will sulk for a while and stay out as long as he dares, but he will eventually return to face me. Do not be alarmed, my fledgling. Legolas will most likely be waiting for me when I am finished here."
A groan and a shuffling sound came from beneath the halfling-hiding blanket, drawing our attention. We froze and watched until the little ones had settled and the lumpy hills and valleys of hobbit stilled. Then Aragorn slid back to sit and study me for a long moment.
"Pippin didn’t learn his elvish obscenities from you," he suddenly said. "He must have learned them from Frodo. You knew that today, did you not, when I told you what Pippin had accused you of?"
I gave him a faint look of surprise, certain I had hidden my knowledge well at the time. But, of course, what folly to try feigning anything in front of my astute Dúnadan.
"But you covered up your knowledge."
That moment late this afternoon flashed through my mind, right after I’d told Gwin I wasn’t conversant in his language. Aragorn had crossed his arms over his chest and turned to me, saying, "Oh? Boromir, Pippin revealed some shocking information to Legolas yesterday regarding elvish obscenities."
I hadn’t known what to think about such a remark, but I’d turned to Legolas, and said, "Elvish obscenities?" Glancing at a nervous-looking Pip, I’d asked, "Did he?"
"Aye, little brother," Legolas had replied. "Peregrin and I had a small set-to yesterday, during which time he rambled off a string of filthy words, all in Sindarin. After some soapy convincing, he told me where he had learned such language."
I’d heard Legolas speaking, but my attention had been on Pippin, who had locked an intense look upon me that fairly begged me to say no more on this subject. I hadn’t had to fake my bewilderment when I glanced again at Legolas and said, "And? Where did he learn it?"
I thought I had fooled everyone. They had all seemed to believe that I had no idea what Pippin was talking about. They all assumed what Pippin, for some strange reason, wanted them to believe – that he had lied about me teaching him filthy elvish. It was true; I hadn’t taught him those words; Frodo had, so the lie itself made no sense.
Nevertheless, Merry had been genuinely horrified: "Pip! You didn’t!" And Pippin engaged in some commendable evasiveness, casting a look of chagrin around the room and then turning to Merry and whimpering, "It was just a tiny fib, Merry. Just a little white lie. The littlest of little white lies."
And Aragorn had bellowed, "It was a lie? You lied, after we had just been talking about so-called ‘white lies’ moments before in this very room?"
An admirable bit of artifice in light of what I now knew. Until this moment, I had believed Aragorn to be taken in by my deception. Aye, what folly indeed. I’d thought it an amazing thing to get away with at the time. The few instances when I had been caught in a slight, and perfectly harmless, fabrication, Legolas had shaken his head at me and sighed and groaned, "Ai! little brother! The eternal Dúnedain insight!" He’d even once tried to emphasize his point about never testing the perceptiveness of a Dúnedain by telling me a story about a competition he and Gwin had engaged in to see which of them could get their Ranger to believe a falsehood the longest. It had ended badly for both of them.
I suddenly thought about who else had been present, Halbarad and Garrick and Devon, all of Dúnedain blood. "Do the other Rangers know?" I asked.
"Perhaps. We didn’t discuss it. They don’t know Pippin and you as I do. But if they did sense that you were pretending, they would have said nothing at the moment. Pippin clearly had a reason for what he did. They would not expose his guise, nor yours, nor mine."
Well, it was something.
"Now, my fledgling," Aragorn said. "What is this about?"
"Aragorn, I do not know," I said. "I’ve not had the chance to speak to Pippin alone. I have no idea what was going through that busy little Tookish head."
Aragorn nodded once and sighed and glanced at the lump of hobbits. "Well, between the two of us, we shall get to the bottom of it."
I smirked. "The ‘bottom’ of it? Poor little Took. Legolas already scorched his wee bottom yesterday."
"Perhaps it will not come to that, my fledgling." Aragorn glanced down, gazing unseeingly at the coverlet and thinking for several minutes; then he suddenly quirked a wry smile, and said, "I am trying to picture sweet Frodo teaching Pippin filthy elvish."
I grinned. "Not just Pippin. He taught Merry, too." Aragorn fired me a surprised look. "Aye. That is how I knew that Frodo had been their teacher. Merry told me on the Quest. Frodo had apparently taught them when they had all been a bit tipsy."
Aragorn and I both chuckled at the thought of tipsy hobbits learning elvish profanity. "Frodo tipsy," he said. "I imagine Master Samwise frowned."
"I got the impression he wasn’t there that night. Merry said Sam didn’t learn the elvish. But he did say that Frodo was known to drink a bit too much on occasion."
Aragorn shook his head with a fond grin. "Drunken halflings. I recall how intoxicated Merry and Pippin managed to get at Meduseld that night, dancing on the tables and entertaining all of Edoras with raucous drinking songs. Do you remember?"
"Indeed," I said quickly. "I remember you and I heading for the sleeping hall, Merry over my shoulder and Pippin over yours, both of them slurring their words and giggling like children and outrageously cheeky. And the two of us laughing in spite of our pretended shock--"
"Aye," Aragorn laughed. "And rewarding their sass with swats to their little backsides--"
"Which they didn’t even seem to feel!"
We both laughed some more; then Aragorn finally sighed, and said, "So, I was right. It was Frodo who taught them." He looked at the Merry and Pippin blanket mound again and smiled wearily. "We should get them to tell us of it. They have been too quiet about Frodo of late."
"Aye," I said. "It is hard for them to speak of him."
"But they need to speak of him, my fledgling. They need to keep him alive on the outside. At present they brood of him on the inside, and it tears at their tender hearts."
"I have noticed."
"Mmm. Then getting to the bottom of this shall provide a good opportunity to talk of Frodo."
"A good opportunity should never be passed over."
Aragorn grew suddenly quiet. I watched him, thinking he had more to say and was, for some reason, holding back. But he’d clearly said all he intended to on the matter, for he raised his chin a bit and looked directly at me, as he always did when he was about to change the subject.
"You will be seeing to Faramir’s spanking tomorrow morning? Addressing his eating habits?"
"Indeed I will."
"Then you shall have this room to yourselves. Legolas and I will come after breakfast and take Merry and Pippin to my chambers. They both have an appointment with a bar of soap."
I chuckled softly and winced in memory. "Ah, poor halflings!"
"I am at least waiting until after breakfast."
"Aye, you are growing soft, my lord." He raised a brow at me, making me grin. "I mean, you are showing admirable compassion, my lord."
"But, your bathing chamber--"
"It has been put to rights." He sniffed a small chuckle. "The destructive path of the mighty Tempest Peregrin Took has been cleared away, although a cloud of fragrance yet lingers." Aragorn’s grin faded and he studied me with sudden seriousness. "Boromir, I came here tonight to check on all of you, but I also wanted to tell you something that Faramir revealed to me after his spanking.
"Nay, my fledgling, do not look so alarmed. There is nothing wrong that cannot be attended to." Aragorn paused, seemingly fighting some internal tussle; then he said, "I feel you are best suited to speak with Faramir about this. You will have him over your knee tomorrow, and you can deal with this as well."
I sat transfixed, trying not to look as anxious as I felt, though I was probably not fooling him. "What is it?"
"After I spanked him yesterday, I was holding him, and Faramir cast his gaze upon Merry. I’d spanked the little one first; then Halbarad had gathered him on his lap and comforted him so that I could attend to Faramir."
I nodded. "Aye, Faramir told me how charming a sight it was, powerful Halbarad with a teary, red-bottomed halfling curled up on his lap."
Aragorn’s eyes sparkled. "Aye, it was indeed a charming sight. I am surprised that Faramir remembers it, though. He was lost in that fog of befuddlement that often follows a spanking."
"Ah." Aragorn need say no more. I knew full well what he meant. "Well, in truth, he spoke of the sight of them before his spanking. He said nothing about afterwards."
"Ahhh, indeed," Aragorn said. "Merry was sleeping afterwards. That explains it. I did not think Faramir remembered what he said to me while in that fog."
"Aragorn, please, what did he say?"
"He said--" Aragorn took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "He said that when Frodo and Sam were in his care, he had spanked them. Not once, but on two occasions. Once in the cave at Henneth Annun and once on the journey to Osgiliath."
I blinked, slightly stunned . . . but, well . . . . "I am certain he had good reason, Aragorn."
"He did. At least he did the first time at Henneth Annun. Frodo had lied to him about Gollum, claiming that he and Sam were alone when Faramir’s Rangers captured them in Ithilien. But Gollum showed up, fishing in The Forbidden Pool, and when Faramir took Frodo out to show him the creature, Frodo had to confess his lie. Faramir spanked him for that, and Sam went near wild with rage and had to be subdued. Faramir then spanked Sam for his conduct."
A sick feeling stirred in my stomach. Something was not right here. Aragorn was trying to tell me all this in a controlled manner, but his effort seemed too strained, as though there was something darker going on. I hugged Faramir closer and waited for Aragorn to go on.
"I do not know the details of the second spanking, but I understand it had something to do with an escape attempt. I would not let Faramir tell me more. It seemed unfair to take advantage of his groggy state, and I-I simply did not want to hear more."
Aragorn’s dark, smoldering gaze made my heart race. Again, it seemed better to wait for him to tell me what he would in his own time. I, too, was not certain I wanted to hear more at this point, but that was not an option. After a long pause, Aragorn continued:
"Boromir, after Faramir spanked Sam and Frodo, he cast them aside and left them. Thank the Valar they had each other, for Faramir did not hold them or talk to them. He did not comfort them. He had not spanked them in a loving manner. It was punishment, not discipline."
A chill shot along my limbs. "No," I grated, my voice hollow. "My brother was not raised with punishment. He was never punished in such a manner! Faramir would not have done such a thing."
"The Faramir you know and remember would not have done such a thing. The Faramir you are now holding close to your heart would not do such a thing. But that was not the Faramir who captured two little lost hobbits in the wilds of Ithilien. That Faramir had recently had a horrific vision. He believed that he had just lost the person he loved most dearly in this world. He brooded on the outside, and on the inside he was half-mad with grief. And that Faramir, my fledgling, was capable of anything.
"He was capable of allowing his men to beat Gollum, a wretched creature to be sure, but a prisoner deserving of merciful quarter. He was capable of forcing Sam and Frodo to Osgiliath with the intention of turning the Ring over to Denethor--"
"Aragorn, stop! Please!" I growled in a hushed voice. "Please stop." I again hugged my little brother to me. "Say no more."
He paused and watched me with somber melancholy; then he said, "I am sorry, my fledgling. I know this is hard to hear. I wish I did not have to tell you such things. But the truth is no less true simply because we wish it was not so."
Again, the voice of the lieutenant who had been with my brother and me since our childhood returned, Damrod’s very words that had followed me from sleep a little while ago now repeating: "It was as if part of him died, my lord. When he had that vision, and felt that you were dead, the Faramir we knew died, too."
"I had not wanted to believe this of Faramir, either," Aragorn went on, a rich undertone of sadness in his voice. "So I sought out Damrod tonight after dinner and asked him to tell me what had happened. Faramir had said that Damrod stayed and held Sam back while Faramir spanked Frodo.
"But, alas, in his groggy state, Faramir had told me the wrong name. ‘Nay, my lord, ‘twas not I holding the wee hobbit in the cave,’ Damrod told me. ‘Had I been there, I would have done all I could to reason with Lord Faramir. Even in his unsound state, he would have listened to me. Faramir’s second lieutenant, Mablung, a good and worthy man, was with him. He restrained Sam both times Faramir spanked Frodo.’
"Damrod said that Faramir had sent him to Minas Tirith to report to Denethor and the council of the numbers of enemy troops moving through Ithilien to Mordor. By the time he rejoined the Rangers in Osgiliath, Faramir had released Frodo and Sam. Damrod never even saw them. But he told me what he had learned from Mablung about the hobbits and about what Faramir had done in his absence, and aye, my fledgling, it was true, all of it."
I closed my eyes, and again I felt a crushing anguish for what my little brother had suffered when he’d thought me dead. I had told myself hundreds of times that there was naught I could do to ease that haunting memory for Faramir, naught I could do but to be as close to him as I could before we marched for the Black Gate. We’d had so little time together, so little time since I’d found him here after the battle. And now I would leave him again.
I flinched at the feel of something touching my face, and I opened my eyes to see that Aragorn had moved close to me again and was wiping away the tears now rolling down my cheeks. He rose then, and somehow he slid in beside and behind me, finding enough room at the edge of the bed to sit and pull me against him, moving carefully to avoid jarring Faramir.
"Shhh, my fledgling," he whispered. "I know, little one. Shhhh."
I turned my head and laid it against his chest, feeling the warmth of his body, the rough-knuckled backs of his curled fingers stroking my cheek, his breath against my hair, his steady heartbeat beneath my ear, the strong thrum comforting, as was his low purr and his quiet words of solace.
"Shhhhh, little fledgling, shhhhh. I am here."
"He has suffered so, Thorongil," I finally said.
"Aye, he has. But so have you, beloved. Were it not for the healing powers of the elves, you would not have survived Amon Hen and Faramir’s false vision would have been true. You have both suffered, sweetling. Perhaps you can both now begin to heal."
I told him of Damrod’s words about Faramir, the ones I had awoken with in my mind, and he ‘hmmm-ed’ in understanding. "Thorongil, Damrod told me something else, something about Faramir . . . something terrible . . . ."
"Ahhh, little fledgling. I think I know. Damrod and I had a long talk this evening. I think I know what terrible thing you speak of." He kissed my forehead and murmured, "Do you want to tell me, or shall I tell you what I think it is?"
A small wrenching moan caught in my throat.
"Shhhh. Let me tell you what Damrod said, sweetling." At my nod, he continued: "He said, ‘When Lord Faramir emerged from his darkest grief, he seemed eager to do himself harm. He took senseless, dangerous chances, almost as though he longed for death. He did not mistreat the men, but he seemed determined to mistreat himself. I warned the lad to cease this foolishness, but he heeded me not, so one day, after yet another pointless stunt, I took him away from the others, intending to discipline him.
"’This was not unusual, of course. I had spanked Lord Faramir on many occasions, as had Boromir. But, when we were off alone, for the first time in his life, Faramir turned to me, and said, "I refuse to submit, sir." Given the way the lad had been acting, nothing should have surprised me, but that did. I asked him why he had accompanied me to this private place if he had meant to refuse his much-needed discipline, and he said that he had not wanted to disgrace me in front of the men.
"’I said, "The only disgrace here, little boy, is your own."
"’"Nevertheless," he replied. "You will not be spanking me this day, Lieutenant."
"’I told him such was not his choice to make, and he said I would not dare force him. That was exactly what I intended, and I told him so. And, aye, as you have clearly guessed, my lord, we ended up fighting. Faramir gave a good account of himself. I was actually proud of him. But I am bigger than he is and stronger, and he eventually ended up over my knee, both of us with a few more cuts and bruises.’"
"And my little brother just lay there," I interrupted, my own dazed voice surprising me. This was indeed the terrible thing Damrod had told me, a thing I would never have thought possible, and it ripped through me now, needing to come out, needing for me to utter it in the open. "Faramir just lay there over Damrod’s lap and went limp, Thorongil. No sound, no movement, no response . . . no surrender. He just lay there and let Damrod spank him and spank him, until Damrod, until he --"
"Until Damrod had to give up. I know. But, shhhhh, my fledgling, gently now. Calm yourself, lest you wake him." He kissed my cheeks, now wet with tears despite his constant petting. "Softly, little one. Aye, it is, as you say, something terrible. I know. Faramir’s suffering was great indeed. He could no longer accept Damrod’s care. He refused to surrender to it. The heart had gone out of him. And so he was able to spank two little halflings without sympathy and the desire to lovingly correct, but only to impart pain. I know, beloved, such a terrible thing."
"Thoron . . . Aragorn," I whispered, pressing my face against his chest again. "I-I don’t know how to help him."
"Aye, my clever fledgling, you do."
I went still. "I do? How?"
"Help him replace the bad with the good," he said. "This morning you and Gwin told me that the ruins of Osgiliath will need to be cleared away before a new and beautiful city can be rebuilt. It is like that within our little brother’s heart. Boromir, he longs for you to make the nightmare end by helping him feel safe again and showing him that all is well. He needs you to spank him, as you used to. He hungers for the gift of your comfort, and he needs to know from you that all is forgiven before he can forgive himself. I could only start to clear away the rubble cluttering his soul. He needs you to finish the cleansing and rebuild something beautiful in his heart."
I listened, feeling a warm spark of hope kindle in my chest. Aragorn shifted to my side in order to face me, his arm now around my shoulders.
"That is why you must be the one to help him atone for Sam and Frodo, sweetling. The bitter guilt he feels over his treatment of them is still alive in his mind. So, aye, his spanking will need to be about his eating, but that behavior was a cry for help and attention. He knew you could not spank him until he became stronger, and he decided to make quite certain that when you were allowed to take him over your knee, you would have plenty of cause to make it the kind of spanking that would purge the horrors still tormenting him."
I nodded slowly. Aye, Aragorn was right, and I felt a small smile forming. He watched me for a moment; then his mouth quirked up on one side, and he brushed the hair back from my forehead, saying, "And, if possible, my noble Steward, leave our little brother able to once again, someday in the distant future, sit a horse."
I woke up smothering and found myself near buried beneath Merry. I rolled him off me and sucked a breath, Merry, of course, not waking once. And they tease me for sleeping soundly. And I was, again, on my back! Ah! I bit my lip and rolled on to my side.
Ruddy elf. That had been one of his more insistent spankings yesterday. Far more than what was called for, in my humble opinion, not that he asked. It had been a lovely set-to beforehand, though, and I grinned again, thinking of his face when I started chucking those bottles of stinky stuff at him! I suppose my spanking would have been less insistent had I not gone berserk that way, and I can’t say it was worth it, lovely though the fight was, since an insistent spanking from Legolas is not something one ever wants to invite.
Of course, he’d been right. Hurling glass like that had been a dangerous thing to do, and it was a wonder neither of us had been cut by flying shards, and of course he couldn’t let me take a single step on that floor, not that he’d have put me down once he’d grabbed me up anyway, points that he made clear with regrettable clarity later when he had me over his knee and my poor bottom was blazing and he’d brought the matter up with his irksome elvish attention to detail:
"And now we come to the matter of your naughty bottle flinging, little one. Have I your attention?"
"Good, for that was especially wicked. We could have been cut by flying glass. It is miraculous that we were not injured."
"Legol-la-aahhhhhh! Pleeeeeeeee – AHHHHHHHHH! Not therrrrrre! Pleeeeee – not therrrrrre!"
"I know that secret curve under your pretty cheeks is tender, little bratling, but I believe I shall continue warming it, as I feel it important to convey my sincere disapproval of your bottle flinging."
"AHHHHHHHH – pleeeee – Legol – ahhhhhhh!"
"Am I making my point, my ungovernable Took?"
My conversational competence suffers when I’m on the receiving end of the elf’s talented arm. Or anyone’s talented arm. At times it seemed my recent life had been awash with talented arms.
Ungovernable indeed! Never had I been so well-governed, starting way back in Bree when all this began with a certain Ranger walloping the feathers out of me. And that was just the beginning. Sometimes I think every big person in Middle Earth from Bree to Rivendell to Lothlorien to Rohan and now in Gondor had taken a literal crack at my poor wee backside. I have a memory from each kingdom paddled on to my bottom. Merry had once made one of his less-than-witty remarks about my capacity for ending up over everyone’s knee:
"Pip, I vow you have a target painted back there."
I glanced at him now, wishing I could keep from rolling on my back in my sleep after a spanking the way he did. I love watching Merry slumber. He’s uniquely pretty to me like this. He still has that sweet peevish look to him that’s just so thoroughly my Merry, but it softens a bit when he’s unconscious. I don’t often get the chance to see him like this because he always waits for me to fall asleep first and I don’t wake up all that much after I’m asleep.
This was the second time I’d been awake tonight, though. The first time, well, the first time I woke up because Merry groaned loud and right in my ear, and then he started shifting around, and I realized his arm was bent under me at a strange and clearly painful angle, so we shuffled about and got that fixed up straight away, and then I heard the voices.
Aragorn and Boromir. Aragorn first, and I’d been half-asleep at the time, but I’d heard what was said:
"Pippin didn’t learn his elvish obscenities from you. He must have learned them from Frodo. You knew that today, did you not, when I told you what Pippin had accused you of?"
Part of me thought I should wake up more and pay attention, but my head was just so heavy with sleep it seemed impossible, so I heard what I heard, but I didn’t think about it. My brain wouldn’t wake up enough to consider what was being said.
But I was very awake now, and the words came back to me clear as could be with Boromir answering Aragorn’s question:
"But you covered up your knowledge."
"Aye. Do the other Rangers know?"
"Perhaps. We didn’t discuss it. They don’t know Pippin and you as I do. But if they did sense that you were pretending, they would have said nothing at the moment. Pippin clearly had a reason for what he did. They would not expose his guise, nor yours, nor mine. Now, my fledgling, what is this about?"
"Aragorn, I do not know. I’ve not had the chance to speak to Pippin alone. I have no idea what was going through that busy little Tookish head."
"Well, between the two of us, we shall get to the bottom of it."
"The ‘bottom’ of it? Poor little Took. Legolas already scorched his wee bottom today."
"Perhaps it will not come to that, my fledgling."
I’d drifted off again, and I heard nothing else. But now a shiver coursed through me. Oh, no. I knew this would be coming. When I’d explained this whole business to Merry earlier, whispering under the privacy of our covers, he’d told me what I already knew:
"Pip, I understand now why you did it, but you’re going to have to explain yourself to everyone. You know that, right?"
"Ah, sweet Pip, shhh, don’t look like that. I’ll tell them for you if you like."
"No, I’ll do it."
Merry had smiled in a bemused way, and said, "Why, what’s this? Pippin, I think you’ve gone and grown up some since we’ve been apart."
"I have not!" I’d exclaimed in jest, but all horrified-like, and carelessly loud enough for Boromir to say:
"You are finished talking for the night, sir."
And I’d felt it best to agree with him.
But now, well, here it was, this problem I’d made for myself by blurting out that lie when Legolas asked me who had taught me the foul elvish words.
Suddenly I felt like I needed out from under this cozy sweet haven with my sleeping Merry, out to where I could think about this more clearly. I hadn’t heard any voices since waking up. So I carefully turned to my other side and peeked out from under the edge of the blanket.
Boromir and Faramir were fast asleep, and Aragorn was gone. Fine. Perfect. I knew just where I wanted to go. I slipped from our bed, Merry not so much as changing his breathing, and I padded over to the far window, not the one near the bed where the men were, where the moonlight was shining in, but the opposite window. Legolas had been sitting up here yesterday when I’d rushed in and found the room full of big people staring at me, poor Merry looking as doomed as we were.
The window ledge was a bit high, but I hoisted myself up just fine and settled into the shadows, instantly wishing I’d had the sense to toss a pillow up here to sit upon. Now. Think, Peregrin.
There was a small flower garden outside this window. I’d sat out on that pretty bench under the rose arbor for hours one day when the healers wouldn’t let me in to see Merry and Boromir was off in Osgiliath.
Think, Pippin . . . .
But my mind wouldn’t slow down and focus. It kept wandering, touching on flashing remembered pictures. So much to happen in such a few days, and I hadn’t felt like I’d caught up to any of it. Seems like that’s what war is – so much happening so fast you don’t have time to sit down and consider how frightening it all is.
But now, this business of the conversation between Aragorn and Boromir that I’d overheard – aye, well . . . . I sighed. So. They knew. Aragorn knew that I’d learned my filthy elvish words from Frodo and that Boromir had helped cover up that fact by pretending he didn’t know where I’d learned it. And Boromir had indeed known.
Way back on the march, when the Fellowship had been together for only a short while and we’d all had an adventure in the mud and Legolas had ended up spanking me for the first time, way back then, Merry had told Boromir about how Frodo had taught us some naughty elvish words.
It had been a soft night, like this one, years ago, when Sam hadn’t been able to join us at the Green Dragon, and on our way home Frodo had taught us the naughty words. Of course, poor Frodo had only done it under the most shameful duress, Merry and I holding him down and tickling him until he could hardly breathe, refusing to stop until he promised to teach us at least ten foul elvish words . . . actually, I don’t think Merry had mentioned that part to Boromir.
Frodo had finally begged us to stop and screamed that he’d tell us anything. Of course, we were all slightly soused, but even in our tipsy state, Merry and I learned that foul Sindarin just fine.
I smiled, thinking back on that night, more quick pictures flashing through my mind . . . Frodo giggling . . . Frodo skipping backwards down a moonlit road ahead of Merry and I, singing a raucous little elvish tune, teasing us by smirking that the translation was too filthy to share with the likes of two such backwater Shireling innocents . . . Merry and I charging him . . . Frodo squealing and spinning and running, his dark curls flying in the moonlight, his musical giggles dancing over the soft meadows of the Shire . . . Merry and me, laughing and threatening him, chasing him down and tackling him in that field of sweet summer grass and then rolling our pretty cousin under us, tickling and tickling as he tried in vain to fight us off . . . and . . . Frodo’s sweet silvery laughter, his adorable squealing --
I started and jerked away from the large body standing next to me.
"Shh, little one, shhh," Boromir said, reaching out for me. "’Tis just I."
"Oh!" I breathed, and I instantly flew into his embrace. He gathered me to him, my arms wrapping ‘round his shoulders and my legs going ‘round his waist . . . ahhh, safe . . . familiar . . . strong and sure and warm and big . . . Boromir.
He stood swaying for a few minutes, just whispering soft ‘shhhh’ sounds in my ear while I kept my face buried against his broad shoulder. Then he said, "There now, Pip. What is it? Why are you crying? Did you have a nightmare?"
I was crying? I was. I’d been thinking of Frodo, and I know better than to do that, because to think of Frodo was to go to the most hurtful, scary place. Merry felt it, too. But, regardless of the hurt, of course we thought of Frodo, and of Sam. They lived in our minds all the time. We were terrified for them. And it wasn’t just Merry and me. It was all of us, all the Fellowship anxious for our loved ones.
And that was why. That was why I had screamed out Boromir’s name when Legolas made me tell him who taught me the elvish. I’d had a mouth full of soap and an insistent elf calmly demanding something of me and a voice inside me screaming to just tell Legolas the truth, by thunder!
But, in that flashing instant, I’d pictured Aragorn. I’d pictured the despair in his eyes anytime Frodo’s name was mentioned. Legolas would tell him of this. And I couldn’t bear it, and I’d screamed out a name, just stupidly, blindly screamed out a name – Boromir! And the second I’d screamed his name, I’d also remembered that, oh, no! Merry had told Boromir that Frodo had taught us the elvish!
But it was too late, too late to explain, too late to tell Legolas I’d lied again and why, and I’d felt awful, and aye, Master Took, you’ve made yet another wonderful mess of things! Silly, silly little Pippin! What about when Boromir found out of this? What would I say? It had all happened so fast, and I couldn’t think. I kept sobbing and sputtering while Legolas made me rinse out my mouth; then he carried me, kicking and screaming, to the bed, and then I was over his knee, and I just let loose, not only from the soaping and spanking about to come, but because I was furious with myself! Stupid, idiot Took!
Oh, it hadn’t been just an insistent spanking! It had been an awful spanking, but a glorious spanking, one I deserved and wanted and needed for so many reasons. I’d cried my throat raw. I’d cried for Frodo and Sam. I’d cried for Merry and Aragorn and all of us who loved Frodo and Sam and were worried about them. I’d cried because of my poor Merry’s pain and because I couldn’t help him in any way other than to love him and because I wanted to do more. I’d cried out my rage at all the forces of hate and evil that had ripped apart so many lives, for Faramir and his suffering, and for the cruelty I had witnessed in this place. I’d cried myself into exhaustion. And, finally, Legolas and his spanking triumphed, and I’d shoved away every thought of everything other than what my bottom felt like.
And when it was all over, after Legolas comforted me, then held me while I slept, then brought me back here and tucked me into bed with my sweet Merry, I’d done what I always do with things I don’t want to think about – I refused to think about it again. Until, that is, Aragorn had opened the whole can of worms in front of a roomful of warriors and elves today and it all came tumbling forth.
And what was I to say then? "Ah, yes, well, I had lied, it’s true. But, y’see, I know how painful it is for Aragorn to hear about Frodo, and he would hear of this, and I was just trying to protect his tender sensibilities, so I lied and implicated Boromir because his was the first name that popped into my head, and had it not been Legolas soaping my mouth, I’d have probably implicated him instead."
And there it was, and it was what Merry liked to call a Pippin Pickle. How many times had he said it to me? "Well, only you could manage this mess, my lad. It’s definitely a Pippin Pickle." Merry was used to this by now. He understood why I’d done what I’d done, and he also understood why it would be hard to own up to it. It was going to be awkward. I was going to feel all the squirmy feelings I should have grown used to by now from years of having them.
But I’d never gotten used to them. And this one, this pickle, was such a tender one. Aye, I’d lied, and I’d cast aspersions on Boromir in doing so, which was unfair to this man I so loved. And I had done it thinking that Aragorn needed protecting from his own feelings. That presumption alone made me cringe inside.
I suddenly realized that Boromir was now sitting where I had been on the wide sill, still holding me close. I also noticed his shirt was damp under my face. He’d asked me something . . . why was I crying. How long had I been making him wait for an answer? One of his big hands cupped the back of my head, holding me against him, while the other rubbed a slow pattern over my back. I drew back a little and stared at the wet patch on his shirt.
"Oh, Boromir." I tsked. "Now look what I’ve gone and done."
He sniffed his small grin and kissed the crown of my head. "Aye, will there ever come a day when you cease this tiresome soaking of my clothing?" I sighed, and he placed a crooked finger ‘neath my chin and tipped it up and gazed down at me with that soft, patient smile in his eyes, then gave me a little kiss, and said, "’Tis all right, little one. I shall dry. And you have many good reasons to weep. You have been through much."
I nodded and winced. "Aye, but I was crying – I mean, I didn’t know I was crying until you said something, but I was crying because I . . . I had been thinking of Frodo."
"Ahhh. Were you, little one?"
"Aye. And . . . and I know better than to let those memories come, because it just makes things worse . . . remembering how things were, and . . . and now . . . ." Fresh tears began to sting at my eyes, and Boromir pulled me to him once more, moving me to the dry side on his broad chest and wrapping me up close, my cheek resting there against his strong body.
"Shhhhhhh, I know, Pip," he murmured. "I know."
I held on to him, wishing all of this were not real, as I had wished many times since leaving the Shire. And again Frodo popped into my mind, this time walking with me in Lothlorien during those days spent healing and mourning the loss of Gandalf:
"D’ya ever find yourself imagining that all this is nothing but a bad dream?" I’d asked my cousin. "And wishing that it wasn’t true?"
"Yes. All the time," Frodo said, that sorrow in his voice that had grown more and more every day. I turned to him and watched him, pretty Frodo, his wide eyes gazing off, seeing something beyond the shady pathways of Lothlorien. "I keep wanting to hear Bilbo yell at me that it’s time to get my lazybones up and face the morn, ‘because it’s not going away, my dear boy!’ And I want to smell the warm, earthy scent of Bag End and open my eyes to the sight of my own room, and I want to get dressed and head into the kitchen where Bilbo is fusting around, the room thick with the aroma of cinnamon and apples from a breakfast cobbler and bacon and fresh bread and Bilbo’s strong blend of tea, and I want to say to him, ‘Uncle, I just had the most dreadful nightmare.’"
"You are thinking of him again, aren’t you, Pippin?"
Boromir’s low voice startled me once more. I nodded. And suddenly I found myself babbling everything, explaining all of it, from the soaping to why I’d sputtered out that ridiculous lie about him teaching me the elvish, to all my thoughts during the spanking Legolas had given me and the frantic crying I’d done for everyone and every awful thing, to the trapped feeling I’d had afterwards, and ending with what I’d overheard earlier between him and Aragorn. He listened silently, his big palm petting my curls.
"Ah, poor Pippin," he said when I finally stopped.
"I’m so, so sorry, Boromir," I said.
"What for, little one?"
"What for?" I drew back to look at him. "You know what for!"
"Shh. A little softer, please."
"But you know what for!" I repeated.
"Pip, keep your voice down."
"Boromir, I sullied your good name!"
He stared at me for a moment; then he burst into a quiet little chuckle. "What?"
"I did! It was a stupid and thoughtless thing to do and completely unfair to you. I told Legolas you were to blame, but you didn’t teach me that profanity!"
"Ah." He grinned. "I didn’t think I had."
"You find this funny?!"
"Pippin!" He pressed his lips together and glanced at Merry and Faramir; then he looked back at me with amused exasperation. "Hold on to me tight, you noisy moppet."
Boromir grabbed me firmly against him, and then, to my shock, he pivoted his big body around, swinging his legs over the sill, and pushed at the partially open window with his feet. It sailed open wide, and Boromir heaved himself to the edge and climbed right out of the window, his long legs easily touching down on the smooth stone walk outside in the garden. And then he was strolling, one hand cupping my bum, one around my waist, carrying me down the pathway to the bench under the rose arbor where I’d sat for all those hours, missing Merry.
Boromir sat without moving me from my position wrapped around him. The soft, mild night surrounded us, the scent of roses lightly sweet. "Don’t fret, Pip," he said. "We will hear if Merry or Faramir calls out."
I nodded and frowned at him. "I wasn’t being that loud."
"You were getting more and more upset and building to something bigger. This is a better place to continue our talk."
"What is there to talk about?" I asked. "I did a stupid, thoughtless th--"
"I shall stop you there, sir. You are not to refer to your deed as ‘stupid’ or ‘thoughtless.’ It was neither, and I shall not allow you to speak of it so."
"But I lied!"
"True, you did indeed lie, but you did not do so to make mischief or to get out of having made mischief. Rather, you did it to protect the feelings of one you love, and I can assure you, Pip, Aragorn will not resent your action or think you presumptuous or feel anything but moved by what you tried to do."
I stared at him. "But, how can you not be mad at me?"
"What reason would I have to be mad at you, Pip?"
"Well . . . ." I dropped my gaze, thinking . . . something just didn’t seem right here. "Well, I dunno . . . I did lie."
"Aye, you did indeed, and Aragorn intends to wash the remnants of that lie from your mouth in the morning."
I groaned. Oh, how I hated getting my mouth washed out with soap! Again, I probably should’ve gotten used to it by now, but how in the name of wonder did a body get used to such a revolting thing? And as for learning from it, well, somehow the repugnant memory of a mouthful of soap never seemed to make it to my brain in time to stop a little harmless fib from slipping out. "I don’t suppose he’ll take my word for it that there aren’t any remnants of that lie left in my mouth."
Boromir chuckled. "Pippin, I vow you must find something appealing in the taste of soap." I made a face. "So," he continued, "why else should I be mad at you?"
I heaved a sharp sigh. This was becoming annoying. The reasons why he should be feeling cross with me seemed obvious, and I hoped he realized what they were quickly and explained them to me, because I surely couldn’t come up with any answers.
"Pippin," he finally said in a gentle tone, "why do you want me to be mad at you?"
"Oh, for goodness sake! I besmirched yer honorable character, didn’t I?" I cried, thinking, as I said it, that it sounded like a thin reason even to me.
Boromir watched me closely. Then he did what Aragorn always does when he’s made up his mind about something – he narrowed his eyes a bit and gave a small nod and made a deep-throated "mmmm" sound.
"Aye . . . you certainly did, young Took. Even though it was clear that no one believed you, you still dragged my good name into the mire, and we needs do something about that. Right now."
His hands clamped around my waist, and I squeaked, but too late, for the next moment I was hoisted up and spun in the air and flopped down, bottom up, over his lap. Oh, noooo! I cried it out: "Nooooooooo!"
But Boromir flipped up my nightshirt without so much as another word, and I cringed. The familiar feel of exposure washed over me, somehow made even more intense than usual since I was now almost completely bare, not even having my britches to kick off. Of course, I’d felt this before, but somehow it was always worse when they yanked my britches completely off, leaving me with nothing on from the waist down. I wriggled and gasped and tried not to start crying before his first swat fell, and I let fly another, "Noooooo!"
"Ah, but you have made a fair point, sir," he said. "You did indeed besmirch my good name most knavishly, and you needs answer for it."
I closed my eyes and braced myself for his first spank – which was sure to hurt like blazes on my still tender behind – and wondered what on earth had possessed me to seek out this position.
I don’t think Pippin had a clue about why he had insisted I place him in this position and paddle his undeserving backside. But I delivered my first spank, watched him jerk upwards and tense his slender legs, and I thought it over.
His bottom was no longer pink from the spanking Legolas had given him. The soft cheeks were like two little snowy hills, perfect and round . . . so adorable, hobbit bottoms. But he was surely still tender, so I would not make this a severe spanking. Pippin did not need severity.
Pippin needed this position, this closeness, this care. He needed to feel me holding him down over my lap, my thighs under his belly, the kiss of the air on his bare and vulnerable hindquarters, my hand resting on his bottom, nearly covering the entire surface. He needed what Aragorn called a ‘comfort spanking.’ I had, on several occasions, received comfort spankings, but it had taken me a moment to realize that such was what Pippin needed from me now.
"It will smart, little fledgling, as indeed it should," Aragorn had told me the first time he’d done this to me. I’d been furious with him for insisting upon it, furious that, no matter how much I’d protested the need for it, he hadn’t listened to a word. He’d simply hauled me over his knee and pulled down my breeches, tolerating my babble, but clearly paying little attention to my words.
It hadn’t been a rough spanking by any means. When he’d delivered his first dozen swats, I knew I could withstand it, even though Legolas had lit up my bottom ferociously just the day before and even though Aragorn’s light swats re-ignited that fire enough for tears to start rolling down my cheeks.
"You have been sulking all day, little one. It will stop now," he’d said in an indulgent tone. "Legolas was right to paddle your naughty bottom so vigorously and you know it. You simply do not like that he was right."
"I’m not sulking! OWW!"
"Aye. That spank stung mightily. You will cease this arguing, sweetling, or I will need to increase my strength to that same sincere level, and I know you do not want me to do that."
"OWW! No, Aragorn! No, sir! Please, don’t do that! I-I’m sorry I argued with you."
"Ah. Then, have you indeed been sulking?"
"Uhhhhh . . . OWW!"
"Aye! Sulking! I-I guess I have been."
"OWW! No, I was! I-I have been . . . sulking."
"Indeed you have been, young petulant fledgling. Did you earn the spanking Legolas gave you yesterday?"
"Aye . . . I-I did."
"So does our loving elf deserve your scorn?"
"No, little one. Indeed he does not."
And then his touch had changed, his swats softening. At times Aragorn would pause in his spanking and just hold me still over his lap, petting my bottom and rubbing my back and letting me weep, talking to me with that ‘little boy’ talk that eased the knots within me and crumbled my wall of resentment and eventually broke me down to that childlike state he so loved.
Aragorn had been right, of course. I wasn’t angry with Legolas for spanking me; I was angry with myself for earning the spanking. Legolas had given me exactly what I’d deserved, but I hadn’t liked it, and after a thorough spanking followed by the kind of solace our elf excelled at, my resentment had later returned. I’d blamed Legolas for my discomfort, and my inner tantrum had made me feel even worse, my sullenness growing until I’d found myself on the receiving end of Aragorn’s comfort spanking.
"I am not upset with you, my fledgling," he’d purred when I’d finally melted over his lap in surrender. "You just needed more attention, and that is all right. My lap is always here for little boys who need a safe place to feel comforted and loved."
"Ohh . . . ohh, Th'rongil! I-I have wronged Leg’las! I wasn’t m-mad at him."
"Shhh. Legolas knows, and he has already forgiven you. His only concern was your well-being. ‘Aye, Aragorn,’ he said to me when I told him what I intended. ‘Aye, help my little brother.’"
I had burst into fresh tears, wrapping my arm more tightly around his lower leg.
"You must forgive yourself now," he went on. "Does my clever fledgling know how to do that?"
"I can go to him and . . . and say, ‘S-Sorry, Leg’las, b-biggest sorry.’"
"I think that is a fine idea, sweetling. But first you will lay here for a while over my lap and ease your heart, for you have been very good, and you deserve this peace."
Pippin was now crying soft tears, as I had always done through a comfort spanking. Poor young mite. They were incredibly resilient, these halflings, withstanding horrors, one after another, that would have crumbled a mighty warrior twice their size. But too much had happened to him in too short a time, and Pippin was understandably reaching the end of his little tether.
It had taken some careful listening to unravel the riddle that was Peregrin Took, but I’d finally caught on to what he was about. He had clearly longed for me to be ‘mad’ at him for his lie, although I had thought his fib understandable given his soapy circumstances and his level of upset. He was also reluctant to accept any kind of outright forgiveness from me without consequences, a bewildering matter until I’d recalled what Aragorn had said to me earlier:
"He needs you to spank him, as you used to. He hungers for the gift of your comfort, and he needs to know from you that all is forgiven before he can forgive himself."
Although Aragorn had been talking about Faramir, his words applied to Pippin as well. Pippin needed me to do this to him. He needed someone to forgive him. And, yet, he was confused, unable to think of a reason why I should be upset with him or what he needed to be forgiven for, so he’d dragged forth the feeble excuse that he’d besmirched my name. It didn’t address the heart of the matter, but it would have to do.
He had likely been hoping I would explain his confusion to him. I doubted he himself would be able to discover the real reason for his guilt. But it became clear to me when I remembered how Aragorn and I had been discussing Frodo earlier.
Thoughts of Frodo had triggered Pippin’s tears. He’d been huddled against the wall of that deep windowsill, crying, and the sound, soft though it was, had drawn me from my light slumber. I’d been surprised to see him over at the window, and even more surprised that, after I had eased out from under Faramir and moved to Pippin’s side, he hadn’t noticed me until I spoke.
But Frodo had been filling his mind to the exclusion of all else around him. Aragorn was right – Pippin and Merry had, no doubt, been trying to avoid thinking too much about their cousin, but when Pippin failed, and the memories and worries poured over him, his helplessness and his anger surged forth.
Pippin had sought this spanking from me, but he didn’t need me to discipline and forgive him for something. He needed to forgive himself for one simple ‘offense’ – he was not Frodo.
He wasn’t suffering as Frodo was. He couldn’t be Frodo and he couldn’t help Frodo. As with all of us, his powerlessness felt unbearable. Every thought of Frodo – aye, and of Sam, too – every memory of them became both sweet and shattering, and Pippin’s despair had now twisted inside him to the point wherein he denied himself forgiveness for not being Frodo, for allowing his gentle cousin to be the one to suffer.
Of course, there was nothing to forgive. I could not help Pippin with his inordinate guilt. But I could comfort spank him, murmuring to him with what Sam called ‘nipper talk.’ I could keep him close, hold him immobile over my lap, rub his sore bottom and let him drink in that feeling of being loved and watched over and cared about. And I could ease him into an acceptance of that care he so deserved by explaining to him the anguish he had been unable to understand, for I did understand it now, and strange as it seemed that this little one felt guilty for not being Frodo, it made a muddled sort of hobbit-sense.
Something our astute dwarf had said on the Quest came back to me: "Ah, well, Aragorn, what can one expect? The wee ones are not of a warrior culture."
Pippin’s docile life in the Shire had been far removed from the brutal truths about the nature of warfare. Everything these two little ones had done thus far was nothing short of miraculous, and their praises were already being sung from camp to camp.
But Pippin knew little of such things, nor did he care. All he cared about was that Frodo and Sam were out there, alone and unprotected, facing untold horrors, and he didn’t know how to live with the guilt of not suffering alongside his loved ones. His tender hobbit heart hadn’t taken in that lesson.
In part, I wished he never had to learn such a lesson. But it was already upon him, and I could only ease his confusion by doing my best to explain what I could and by giving him this safe, familiar place over my knee, the solace of my attention and a heated little bottom to remind him of how worthy he was.
I’d been spanking Pippin with slow moderation, just enough to maintain a nice warmth. Oddly enough, he hadn’t sought anything more intense since when I’d begun . . . but then, perhaps he understood the nature of a comfort spanking better than I’d thought.
I now eased back from the nipper talk, letting him lay weeping and shuddering and hearing only the whisper of the night wind through the garden of flowers. His pretty bottom was barely pink in the moonlight. I rubbed the soft skin and delivered intermittent small spanks, calming him further.
"Pippin," I finally ventured, "you needed this spanking, not because of your lie, but because you deserve to be comforted. Do you understand?"
"Aye," he answered in a hushed voice. "M-Merry does this s-sometimes. He c-calls it a ‘settlin’ spanking.’"
"Ahhh, I see," I said, smiling a bit. So, Pippin did understand this. Clever Merry. "He paddles you like this to settle you down?"
"Uh-huh. L-Like you just d-did. But I-I don’t understand, because . . . well . . . M-Merry does it when I’ve been too cheeky or too p-pesky, like back on the Q-Quest. He’d t-take me off sometimes alone after a l-long day – ‘member?"
"Mmmm. I remember. But then, what is it you do not understand?"
"I-I needed to be spanked this t-time! I needed to be dis’plined for my lying, dis’plined and forgiven! I deserved a real spanking, not just a settlin’ spanking!"
"Nay, Pippin. You did not. I gave you just what you needed, a loving, settlin’ spanking."
He had been lying with his head turned away from me and pillowed on his crossed arms, but he now turned his face towards me, crying, "But--!"
"I shall explain; however, you will not interrupt me." I delivered a goodly swat that made him jerk and gasp. "Do I make myself clear?"
"Aye, B-Bor--" He stopped, closed his mouth, and nodded.
I smiled at his obedience. "Ah, sweetling, you need forgiving, aye, but not for besmirching my good name and not for telling a lie. You have not wronged me." I paused, rubbing his bottom again, and went on:
"Pip, when I came upon you at the window, you were crying. You hadn’t even known you were crying, but I suspect you have cried often for this same reason, only silently, on the inside. You were thinking of Frodo, and your reflections both delighted and distressed you.
"Imagining Frodo and Sam is hard, is it not, little one? Perhaps you try to avoid it. Yet, you cannot, for they are a part of you. You cannot tear them from your mind any more than you can tear a limb from your body."
My heart wrenched at the sight of the fresh tears sliding down Pippin’s face. He’d remained still and quiet, but he’d shut his eyes, as though unable to bear the extra task of sight when under such an avalanche of excruciating truth.
"You heard Aragorn and I talking tonight, and you realized that tomorrow you were going to have to explain your lie to him. But you had blurted out that lie in the first place to shield him from sad thoughts of Frodo. What a tight spot!"
He moaned softly and covered his face with his hand as if too ashamed to be seen.
"Aragorn will indeed wash out your mouth for your fib, little one, but you don’t deserve to be spanked for it. You are in need of forgiveness, aye, but not for that." I sighed and let my palm rest on his warm curvy mounds. "Pippin, you need to forgive yourself for not being Frodo."
He went so still and silent he seemed to have stopped breathing. After a few long moments, he slid his hand from his face and stared off; then Pippin raised his head and twisted his body to look back at me with huge eyes. He slowly turned to his side, and I allowed him to move as he wished, helping him as he rose. Grabbing my arms and pulling himself up, his gaze locked on mine, he straddled me again, wrapping his legs around my waist, clearly too thunderstruck to speak.
But Pippin wasn’t bewildered. He looked calm and lucid. He understood me, and he knew my words to be true, and all he needed now was for me to finish unveiling the creation he had fashioned in his mind. I was so proud of him I leaned in and tenderly kissed his perfect bowed mouth; then I drew back and studied him.
"Aye, you see, don’t you, little one? You need feel no shame because you are not suffering in Frodo’s place. You may not be the Ringbearer, but you and Merry have done all you can, and more so. Only you could have said what you did and gone where you went and done what you have. You have shown courage in capture and wisdom with the ancient Ents and honor in battle. In everything you’ve done, you’ve helped Frodo, and you and Merry have both suffered in the doing of it. And . . . and . . . ."
I felt my own eyes sting with sudden tears and my throat thicken. "Pippin, I . . . I can never repay what you have done for me. I shall be forever in your debt, for you saved my beloved little brother’s life. How can I ever . . . ." I shuddered and hugged him to me, holding him and trembling until I could calm myself and focus again and think of the little one in my arms.
I drew him back and gave him another small kiss, then said, "Peregrin Took, Guard of the Citadel, never think for a moment that you have not done enough, or been enough, for you have done more than the mightiest of warriors. I thank the Valar that our lives are interlinked and that you are here, blessing Gondor with your presence and your most noble service."
I had already thanked Pippin for his incredible deed after first learning the entire story from Gandalf. I’d sought out the little hero and taken him to my chambers, and there I’d held him as I held him now and wept in gratitude for a long time. But I could have thanked him for a lifetime and it still would never have been enough.
Pippin stared at me now, blushing and then glancing down with a shy smile. I kissed his brow, and said, "And now, my most worthy soldier of Gondor, you can do yet one thing more."
Pippin looked up at me, plainly fascinated. I toyed with the soft curls fluttering beside his cheek, and said, "You fell back asleep too early tonight, or you would have heard Aragorn and I speak on. You said that the last words you heard him say were, ‘Perhaps it will not come to that, my fledgling.’ But we said much more after that."
I told him of the exchange Aragorn and I had enjoyed about inebriated halflings entertaining a hall full of celebrating Horse-lords, winning from him a precious Pippin grin. I then added the story I’d shared with Aragorn of what Merry had revealed to me – that they were all tipsy when Frodo had taught them the foul elvish. Pippin’s smile faded, something about that memory clearly jarring him.
"No, sweetling. Think back," I said suddenly, eager to keep him focused on my point. "It was Aragorn who you heard first mention Frodo. And, after you’d gone back to sleep, he again brought your cousin up first, imagining what a tipsy Frodo would look like and smiling over the thought of him teaching you and Merry foul elvish when in such a state. And Aragorn was comforted by those thoughts, Pip."
Pippin’s brow tightened in eager perplexity, and he stared at me, as though standing breathlessly on the edge of sudden understanding. I pushed on:
"You meant well, trying to shield Aragorn from painful thoughts. But Aragorn knows that we cannot shut Frodo and Sam out of our thoughts, nor cease our talk of them. Aye, it can hurt to think of them and to look back on what once was with longing and regret, but it hurts more deeply to deny ourselves those thoughts of them and to never speak of them.
"We must speak of Frodo and Sam, little one. To speak of Frodo and Sam is to keep them alive in our hearts, to say with our steadfastness that we know they will triumph and that we shall be with them again, and that goodness can and will win out over evil."
Pippin’s mouth hung open. He looked stupefied, clearly believing me and agreeing with me, yet stunned, as though wondering why he needed to be reminded of so simple a truth.
I pulled him into my arms again and rocked him slightly, something Pippin always loved, and I continued murmuring to him: "Ah, Pip, I know. What a world this has become if an innocent such as yourself begins to question his faith in its goodness. Yet, with all you have been through and all the senseless cruelty and brutality you’ve seen, it is understandable that even a heart such as yours would begin to despair."
"But, Pip, even in our uncertain world, we can be certain of each other. Our faith in each other endures, living in our hearts and memories and thoughts. None can take those from you, and that is where Frodo and Sam are, little one, alive and struggling on." I kissed his curls, adding, "But then, you know this truth, sweetling. I see it in your eyes when you look at your Merry or when you grin that mischievous grin or when your cheekiness spills out unchecked. Aye, you know all this."
"Aye, Boromir," I heard muffled against my chest. "I know."
I drew back and cupped his chin, lifting his face to mine. A few tears lit up his glistening eyes, but the beginnings of Pippin’s soft and irresistible smile whispered over his lips. I nearly became teary myself, seeing it there. And, a moment later, he studied my face with a faint look of surprise; then, to my shock, he reached up and waylaid two traitorous tears slipping down my cheeks. He looked at the wetness on his fingertip.
"Sam . . . ." He paused and bit his lower lip, then he grinned and went on: "Sam used to call these ‘good tears.’ ‘Don’t worry,’ he’d sometimes whisper to us. ‘Those there are just Mister Frodo’s good tears.’ "
I smiled and pulled him close again, longing to hug him senseless, my throat too tight and hot to speak for a while; then I finally said to him, "Pip, tell me of the night Frodo taught you and Merry the naughty elvish words."
Pippin jerked back, his eyes wide. "When he taught us what elvish words?!"
We laughed. "Well," I said. "They were naughty words, weren’t they?"
"Aye, indeed they were! And are!" he giggled.
"Then we shall call them what they are," I said, delighting in his giggle. "Come, tell me of the whole night, for I sense there is more to this story than what Merry shared. And after you have told me the tale, perhaps you can teach me the words."
"Oh, ho!" he cried in mock indignation. "No, no, noooo, sir! Frodo made us promise never to teach anyone--"
"Aye," I interrupted with a sigh. "So I have heard."
"Well," he said, a gentle radiance in his eyes, "I don’t wish to have to explain to Frodo how it is you know the naughty words he taught us . . . when next I see him."
I smiled at Pippin, and he leaned up and kissed me; then he told me his tale, and we laughed, and we sat amongst the roses for a long while, quietly sharing our memories and our good tears.
End of Chapter II – Boromir’s Gift
Ere the Final March to be continued . . .